By Ray Hamill — The Arcata Tigers were unable to contain a dangerous Cloverdale running game at the Redwood Bowl on Friday night, and ended up falling 31-12 in the opening round of the North Coast Section Division-V playoffs.
A Tigers defense that has stifled opponents for the past two months allowed its most points since falling to St. Bernard’s in August, as the visiting Eagles pulled away late.
The loss ends a successful season for the Tigers, who won the Little 4, the program’s first league title in six years.
“I’m proud of my football team,” Arcata head coach Jamal Jones said. “The biggest thing this year is we saw a lot of fight from these guys. We saw that every single day.”
The Tigers played with heavy hearts after the tragic death in Minnesota this week of former Arcata High student Joia Simpson, who many of the players knew.
Trailing 7-0 early, the Tigers scored their first touchdown of the night midway through the second quarter on a nine-yard pass from quarterback Matt Robinson to receiver Kevin Madero.
The Eagles, however, scored two touchdowns in the final three minutes of the opening half on runs by Jone Wesele and Cesar Buenrostro to open up a 21-6 halftime lead.
The Tigers pulled within striking distance again on a 15-yard Kien Mazzotti TD run early in the third quarter and appeared to have grabbed some momentum back.
The score remained 21-12 into the fourth quarter, before the visitors pulled away again on a late field goal and another TD run by Buenrostro, this one from 46 yards out.
“It didn’t end the way we wanted it to end,” Jones said. “I got out-coached. (Cloverdale head coach) Jason Alexander did a hell of a job. He came out and he had a hell of a game plan.
“And their players made big-time plays at big-time moments.”
With the loss, the Tigers close out the season at 6-5.
The No. 8 seeded Eagles improved to 7-4 and will now advance to play at No. 1 seed Kelseyville next weekend.
In other Division-V games this weekend, Hoopa Valley is seeded No. 10 and will play at No. 7 St. Helena on Saturday night, while No. 11 Ferndale plays at No. 6 Berean Christian on Saturday afternoon.